The history of Germany has been a subject of interest to many people throughout the world. Much of this interest is usually concentrated on the period spanning from 1933-1945. During this period, Adolf Hitler and his National Socialist German Workers’ Party led the country through what later came to be known as the Nazi Regime. From the time he was appointed as the Chancellor of Germany at the beginning of 1933, Adolf Hitler had only one goal of amassing massive power to himself.
He embarked on this objective by first eliminating his political partners and later began extending the country’s borders. In order to carry out his objective without hindrance, Hitler established the “Gleichschaltung”, which was a forum to ensure that he took control of all the major institutions in the country. However, religious leaders claimed that the church needed to be independent from the state and objected strongly to the plan. One religious organization that strongly opposed the extension of the Gleichschaltung into the realm of religion was the Roman Catholic Church.
(Behrens) The gleichschaltung, which literally translated means to make equal was a Nazi term that sought to establish a totalitarian system over every sector of the Germany society. According to historians, this coordination was done in a forceful manner. This system had the sole objective of ensuring that the whole of Germany lived under one doctrine that was dictated by the Nazi government. Beginning from 1933, the government did everything within its power to silence any organization that would influence the masses. This influence also extended to the churches that for long had been viewed as the voice of the society.
This was done through establishing systems like the Ministry of Ecclesiastical Affairs to oversee the running of the churches. Despite these measures, the church led by the Catholic Church continued to fight for the autonomy of the church. (Bunson) Although many Catholics are known to have ignored the actions of the Socialist Party for fear of reprisals, there are those who spoke out openly against the regime. During the Holocaust, many Catholics were tortured in concentration camps for opposing Hitler and his policies.
Just over a month after taking control of the government, Hitler and his party banned all the major Catholic papers for claims that the church was interfering with state affairs. During the following years, many priests were arrested for condemning the manner in which Jews were being treated. Even before the Catholic Center Party that had the support of many Catholics could be disbanded, many of its members had been arrested and confined into concentration camps.
This was carried out under “Kirchenkampf”, a legislation that sought to wage war against the church. In order not to appear to be attacking the church, the arrested Catholics were charged for disobeying the state. (Spicer 493) Despite the numerous attacks leveled against Catholics, the Clergy led by Bishop Clemens August Count von Galen of Munster continued to oppose the Nazi regime. Throughout the whole period, Bishop von Galen was a vocal critic of the Hitler regime. His popularity earned him the nickname “Lion of Munster” for his fearless criticism. This popularity kept him from suffering the same fate with his fellow clergy. The Munster Bishop was particularly incensed by the attacks of monasteries and the excommunication of people who held on to Catholicism. Together with other clerics, Bishop von Galen also strongly resisted the organized murder of the aged people and those who were suspected to be terminally ill.
The Bishop and his associates claimed that the concept of Euthanasia or mercy killing went against human rights and was therefore illegal. They claimed that this went against God’s command not to kill and strongly discouraged it. During this time, the Nazi government was eliminating those who were considered to be contributing little toward the progression of the Nazi cause. This was done in the guise of killing the aged and terminally ill to ease their pain.
The Catholic movement led by Bishop von Galen opposed this by claiming that death was supposed to be meted out only to people who had committed crimes worthy of death punishment. This contribution marks just a part of the struggle and opposition that the Catholic Church underwent in trying to avoid the extension of Gleichschaltung into the realm of religion. (Jauch)
The Nazi reign was characterized by oppression and the desire to ensure that it took control of every institution. This was accomplished under the Gleichschaltung policy that sought to ensure that no institution had the capability of influencing the society. The government led by Adolf Hitler accomplished this by oppressing the institutions that it could not disband. One of the institutions that the government failed to disband was the church.
It however carried a series of attacks to ensure that the church conformed to its policies. This was strongly opposed by the Catholic Church, which claimed that the state was not allowed to have control over the church. The church also opposed the idea of mercy killing, which they termed as an abuse of human rights.
Behrens, Rolf. Scientists for the Regime. Jewish Political Studies Review, 2008. Web.
Nov 6. 2010. org/JCPA/Templates/ShowPage.asp?DBID=1&LNGID=1&TMID=111&FID=624&PID=0&IID=2750> Bunson, Mathew. Catholic Education Resource Center. Catholic Martyrs of the Holocaust, 2009. Web. Oct 26. 2010. > Jauch, Gunther. The Catholics and the Third Reich, 2009. Web. Oct 21. 2010. < http://skunks.wordpress.com/tag/nazi/> Spicer, Kevin. Holocaust and Genocide Studies. Bishop von Galen: German Catholicism and National Socialism (review), 2004. 492-495. Print.
org/JCPA/Templates/ShowPage.asp?DBID=1&LNGID=1&TMID=111&FID=624&PID=0&IID=2750> Bunson, Mathew. Catholic Education Resource Center.
Catholic Martyrs of the Holocaust, 2009. Web. Oct 26. 2010. > Jauch, Gunther. The Catholics and the Third Reich, 2009. Web. Oct 21. 2010. < http://skunks.wordpress.com/tag/nazi/> Spicer, Kevin. Holocaust and Genocide Studies. Bishop von Galen: German Catholicism and National Socialism (review), 2004. 492-495. Print.
> Jauch, Gunther. The Catholics and the Third Reich, 2009. Web.
Oct 21. 2010. < http://skunks.wordpress.com/tag/nazi/> Spicer, Kevin.
Holocaust and Genocide Studies. Bishop von Galen: German Catholicism and National Socialism (review), 2004. 492-495. Print.